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Sugar House Journal

Dan's Review: "Gloria Bell" a pointless slice of life we didn't really want - or need

Mar 14, 2019 18h21 ● By Dan Metcalf

Julianne Moore and John Turturro in Gloria Bell - © 2019 A24.

Gloria Bell (A24)

Rated R for sexuality, nudity, language, and some drug use.

Starring Julianne Moore, John Turturro, Michael Cera, Brad Garrett, Holland Taylor, Sean Astin, Tyson Ritter, Caren Pistorius, Jeanne Tripplehorn, Cassi Thomson, Rita Wilson, Alanna Ubac, Chris Mulkey, Barbara Sukowa.

Written by Alice Johnson Boher and Sebastián Lelio.

Directed by Sebastián Lelio.



Most people lead ordinary lives, but that doesn’t mean someone should make a movie about it. If people followed me around with a camera, they would more than likely end up bored to death (besides being occasionally grossed out or offended). Gloria Bell, a nearly shot-for-shot remake of Chilean filmmaker Sebastián Lelio’s 2013 film Gloria is proof positive that ordinary stuff usually doesn’t belong on the big screen.

Julianne Moore stars as Gloria Bell, a divorced middle-aged woman with two adult kids and a grandson. She spends her weekends at a disco bar where she dances with middle-aged men, only to return to a quaint apartment where she lives alone. By day, Gloria works at an insurance company, driving to and from her office singing 1970s and 80s hits along the way. She also takes Yoga classes, attends “laugh” therapy, gets herself waxed, and deals with loud neighbors. Her relationship with her adult kids (Micheal Cera and Caren Pistorious) is strained but cordial. One night at the disco bar, she meets Arnold (John Turturro) and begins a romantic relationship. The love affair falls apart when Arnold can’t deal with having a girlfriend and taking care of his needy ex-wife and adult daughters. He also has trouble dealing with Gloria’s extended family, including her ex-husband and his new wife (Brad Garrett and Jeanne Tripplehorn). They eventually make up, but during a trip to Las Vegas, Arnold abandons Gloria at a casino restaurant, and she returns to southern California to put her life back together and reconsider her bad decisions.

Yeah, that’s pretty much it. Sound familiar? Typical, even?

First, allow me to say what a talented and compelling actor Julianne Moore is. Her performance in Gloria Bell is spot-on as a desperate, average, divorcee just trying to survive middle age in a sea of other random people with similar problems, broken dreams, and life hassles. She’s the good news for Gloria Bell, but there’s not much more worth noting. Most plot points are given in the periphery, as off-hand references or background noise. Moreover, it’s a movie with scenes that seem to be constructed around the songs that play in the soundtrack, like when Gloria and Albert break up the first time, Gloria attends a party where the guests sing Gilbert O’Sullivan’s “Alone Again.” Incidentally, the entire film feels like a lead up to a “grand finale,” where Gloria dances by herself at a wedding to Umberto Tozzi’s Italian “Gloria” song (it was a big hit in 1982 with Laura Branigan’s English version). Get it? It’s a song called Gloria, and the main character is named Gloria, so you have to wonder if Sebastián Lelio’s entire premise was built around this song.

I’m not sure why Lelio felt compelled to remake his Chilean version of the exact same film, other than to cash in on some English-speaking accolades and box office. I wasn’t that impressed with the original, for the same “ordinary” reasons I’m not that enamored with the new one.

Yep, the lives of actual people who don’t do much more in life than get married, have kids, divorce and work to pay the bills until they die are “dime a dozen,” but that doesn’t mean we need to make movies about such mundane existences. For most moviegoers, the big screen is an escape from such droll circumstances, and Gloria Bell is nothing more than a constant reminder of how futile life can be. If the main conflict is boredom, you don’t really have a movie - you have a series of sad journal entries.

Gloria Bell Trailer